However what is definitely a first is the startling record by Bill Bradbeer of a Merlin taking prey of a small unidentified brown bird in his garden. Merlins are pretty rare and most usually seen on moorland; so Bill Bradbeer's record is exceptional. Those of you who have bird tables may well have had visits by Sparrow Hawks of which the larger brown backed female is more obvious. The male, whose back is slaty blue rarely soars above tree level and has a skulking habit and is more difficult to see, particularly as its visits are short and sharp. It may be distinguished from a Merlin by transverse stripes on its chestnut red under parts where the Merlin's stripes are longitudinal.
Bill also reported a Woodcock foraging in a garden in Court Lane during the autumn. They are seen occasionally in Dulwich woods as winter visitors but do, from time to time, stray into our gardens, perhaps taking cover in the undergrowth beside railway lines, though I suspect this bird was on migration as there have been no more records.
Although winter started mildly, the very cold spell with a snowfall which has us in its grip as I compile this report should bring garden visitors to those of us who put out feed, unless they too have had to put up with the competition of a bread-eating fox as in my garden. The main feature so far was an enormous influx of Redwings and a few Fieldfares over the Christmas period and at the New Year there were 150 Redwings feeding on the Herne Hill velodrome. In fact, five species of Thrush were also there, feeding on the supply of worms disturbed by football games. Nearby was a Kestrel which was also taking worms from the ground, demonstrating why the Dulwich Kestrels rarely need to hover. The Scandinavian Thrushes seem now largely to have departed leaving just a few Redwings but we may see them again in late winter.
We now have an active birdwatching fraternity based in Brockwell Park and providing regular records backed up by spectacular photographs by Suzy Hogarth. The most interest comes from records of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, a red listed endangered species which may have originated from a breeding pair in Dulwich last year. There is also a resident Little Owl in the park.
My plea for Bat records has borne fruit. The water loving Daubenton's Bat has a large flying population over Dulwich Park lake and Pipistrelles are alive and well in the ruins of All Saints Church, Rosendale Road. So we still have bats in our belfries!
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